Sunday, June 7, 2009

Expanding Boundaries

Warning: I don't edit blogs. As I think it, you get it. Proceed at your own risk.

I belong to numerous loops including one specifically oriented to writing futuristic, fantasy, and paranormal romance. I write science-fiction which falls under the futuristic part, and I've read fantasy (picked up a book because the author had my maiden name. She got me. I'm hooked), but I'm not keen on paranormal--at least not the werewolf, vampire, demonic kind--so tend to avoid it. I even avoided loop discussions on these subjects because they made me uncomfortable.

Silly me. I built a wall, but it didn't protect me; it limited me.

Now, that's not to say these topics became any more comfortable--there are reasons I don't read them--but with tearing down that wall came a freedom to mold, fuse, assimilate, and utilize.

How many things make you uncomfortable? How many of those uncomfortable things do you avoid? How high is your wall?

Moving beyond our comfort zone is necessary lest we stagnate. Those who write, especially in genres created almost entirely within the realm of imagination, must have fuel for that imagination. Like camels, we can run on what we have for a while, but at some point, the reserves need to be replenished.

Why, you ask, must I venture forth from this safe place? This place of security?

The answer is sameness. How many writers have you read whose stories, over time, developed a sameness, a formulaic feel? You know, the SS/DD (Same Story, Different Dame) syndrome? Has that writer become, at least to your bookshelf, as obsolete as the Single Sided/Double Density floppy disk? Is this what you want for your career?

Reaching beyond comfort exposes us, makes us vulnerable, but it also sharpens our senses, makes us aware. Adrenaline flows, hair stands, we are very much alive and alert to the world around us with all its possibilities.

So, I opened those files on vamps and were-folk. Deleted lots of them, but learned from some, found idea 'seeds' in others because writers are writers regardless of genre. We all have strengths and weaknesses, we all work toward the same goals--and don't fall back on that old saw about someone writing different themes, morals--and the list goes on--than you because none of us write the same as any other even within genres.

Speaking of genres, who says you can't mix them? Don't people who write Edwardian Vamps do just that? What about futuristics on worlds rife with mages and gnomes or lost civilizations? Fantasy often loves swords and, whether by accident or design, uses many things pulled from the Dark & Middle ages.

Who is the ambiguous "they" who does all the saying? Why do we listen to "they?" Isn't each genre the result of someone stepping beyond his or her comfort zone into uncharted territory?

Not that many years ago there would have been little need to have futuristic included in any romance loop. Kirk was busily going where no man had gone before, kissing females of every humanoid species, but romance? Nah. Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Terry Brooks, and other like them had fantasy sewn up, but although romantic elements were often included, no fantasy romance existed. Paranormal found itself shelved with Horror whether it deserved that connotation or not. And paranormal romance? Forget it.

And then someone took a chance. Maybe read something uncomfortable? Who knows? But that feat opened so many more doors.

Come on. The door's open. Step outside. It's time to expand your boundaries. Are you ready?


Jessa Slade said...

Great post. Stepping outside business as usual can be uncomfortable. Not just because we're scared to try something new, but because we're afraid to waste our limited time and energy on something that won't work out.

But pushing boundaries is where we expand ourselves, and I think that can only strengthen our stories, even if we find ourselves happily back writing pregnant virgin cowboy brides with wacky canine sidekicks.

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Pregnant virgin cowboy brides. LOL But you have the right of it. Even if we go back inside, the walk will have done us good.

Thanks for stopping, Jessa.

PJ von Detweiler said...

Sorry. Forgot to change hats.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Great post!

I'm exceedingly cross-genre and I find I'm most comfortable there because I get to use all my favourite genres. Hopefully I'll appeal to the types of readers that I am myself. The industry wants to pigeon-hole, and so it took about 9 years for The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (a historical gothic paranormal fantasy romance with YA appeal) to go from page to sale. It seems cross-genre is opening up, it seems only a natural and understandable progression.

PJ von Detweiler said...

Wow, Leanna. You didn't simply mix genres, you used a Cuisinart!

I'm glad to know you stuck to your guns and finally found someone bold enough to give your ambitious experiment a home. I look forward to reading it.

Thanks for sharing.